Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Holiday Gift that Kept on Giving: writing a children’s book song parody

Check out our guest post from children’s book author Sue Fliess!

The Holiday Gift that Kept on Giving: writing a children’s book song parody

WE WISH FOR A MONSTER CHRISTMAS, my new holiday book illustrated by Claudia Ranucci and published by Sterling Children’s Books (available now!), was both fun and challenging. Heavy emphasis on challenging. It started when my agent sent an editor a story I’d written, which she promptly, though kindly, rejected. This editor, Meredith Mundy at Sterling, happened to visit my website and see that I had some of my song parody videos I’d created about writing, one being a Christmas carol. In her note to my agent, she mentioned that her house does well with children’s books that are parodies. Might I consider writing one? Sure! I said. Why not?! I said. How hard could that be? I said.


First, my list of Christmas carols was long. It was just a matter of choosing one, right? But we soon learned that it had to be a song in the public domain. My long list suddenly became very, very short. But that didn’t stop me. I thought about them for awhile, of how I could change the titles, hoping that process would spark a storyline. Thankfully, it did. We Wish You a Merry Christmas became We Wish for a Monster Christmas. Now I just had to write it. What I didn’t realize until I started digging in, was that each stanza of the song required 3 rhyming words each, plus an ending word that rhymes with ‘year.’ For example:

He’ll eat all our peas.
We’ll check him for fleas.
He’ll hang by his knees from the brass chandelier.

Then there were the longer, stickier, multi-syllabic, stanzas:

He ate every chair and table.
He chewed through the TV cable.
So Dad says we won’t be able to keep him in here.

I started making lists of words that may play a role in a story of children wanting a monster, then getting a monster, for Christmas. I pulled it off. It was done. There may have been some tears. Okay, there were tears! But I was happy with the final story –and even better, it actually made sense! And the rhymes worked. We sent it to Meredith.

She asked for a revision.

“Sure!” I said. But what I was thinking was, “That’s impossible! I can’t do it!” Fortunately, I needed to add a stanza or two to break up the repetition, but didn’t have to change any existing stanzas, save for a tweak here and there. So I went back to my process, and came up with more ways the monster could cause trouble.

I was so happy (read: relieved) when we finalized this text. It was by far one of my most challenging projects to date, but in the end, I was so glad I volunteered to try it. The best part is that you can sing the whole book! I even made a karaoke version for you to follow. What are you waiting for, warm up those vocal chords and give it a try!

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